The Elements of Evolution (43-4-2) Island Plants


Several plant traits are known to evolve in predictable ways on islands. ~ New Zealander biologists Patrick Kavanagh & Kevin Burns

Islands present new challenges to plants. Evolutionary responses have been consistent.

To better establish themselves where real estate is severely limited, herbaceous species on islands often become woody. Larger leaves are another predictable trend, to make the most of land allotment and try to crowd out competition.

Island plants also produce larger seeds. This reduces dispersibility, which is an advantage when seeds spread afar may be lost at sea. Further, larger seeds tend to generate larger seedlings, which are more likely to grow and outcompete punier neighbors. Coconuts innovated to create gigantic seeds which can survive sea voyages and then establish themselves on new islands.